The tragedy of Mrauk-U (1660-1661) ( I )
The main protagonists in the very human episode were a Mughal Prince of the House of Timur who had but lately played a spectacular, if in fructuous, part in the triangular contest for the throne of the Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658), who was still living and Sanda Thudhamma, the Buddhist King of Arakan, acclaimed by the Bengali Cavalryman-Poet Syed Alaol who was attached to a Muslim official in the Arakanese Court of Mrauk-U (Myohaung), as in duty bound, as a unique ruler who destroyed the wicked and sustained the poor as also by San Shwe Bu, Arakanese archaeologist and historian, as “one of the most enlightened Kings of the Mrauk-U dynasty.” 2 Much interests (and criticism) have been focussed on the actions of each, the criticism being slanted, in some cases, according to the race and affiliations of the writer. On the other band, some European writers, naturally in this case, not concerned with the “pride of nationality which sometimes overpowers truth,” have in the midst of partisan accusations and counter-accusations hastened to pin the label of barbarism on oriental rulers as a class! Thus San Shwe Bu tries to vindicate the reputation of King Sanda Thudhamma, and rebut the accusations of Spearman and Phayre, earlier British historians of Burma, against the Arakanese monarch, and incidentally refers to, “the belief which most European writers shared concerning Eastern potentates who were always looked upon as despotic,cruel and barbarous.” On the other hand, Harvey, in response to the Arakanese historian’s onslaught on his compatriot Phayre, pontificates”… whether it was King Sanda Thudhamma-raza, as Spearman or Phayre says, or Shah .Shuja, as Maung San Shwe Bu says, who behaved badly, in either case, it was an eastern King who behaved badly,” 3
After the overwhelming discomfiture of Prince Shuja’s Bengal army on the battlefield of Khajwa (5th Jan.1659), his fate was sealed. There was no hope of retrieving his position, and the only immediate course left for him was to withdraw eastward until he arrived in Bengal, the subah which be had governed and ruled, with a break, for seventeen long years. Even in that subah, the fleeing prince, faced with recalcitrant nobles and zemindars, including Diwgn Munawwar Khan, zamindsr of Dacca, who had but lately benefited from Shuja’s generosity, kept on retreating until ultimately on the 12th day of April, 1560 (11th Sha’ban, 1070 A.H.), the harried prince with his family and a body of faithful soldiers and retainers reached Dacca where be hoped for temporary asylum and some time to mend his shattered fortunes.
In anticipation of his having to seek for assistance from and refuge with Sanda Thudhamma, King of Arakan, in the last extremity, be had already had his son Zain al-din send emissaries with presents to Sanda Thudhamma at his capital city of Mrauk-U.4 This had been deemed an expedient measure in view of Shujah’s rapidly deteriorating political position. According to ‘Alamgirnamah’ 5 in response to an even earlier overture for aid, such assistance had been offered by the Arakanese monarch, but on the present occasion, response seemed to have been tardy.
The Daghregister Gehouden in te Casteel Batavia or the Daily Register kept in the Castle of Batavia, being the official records of the Dutch East India Company, contains a great mass of papers, containing information upon Dutch relations with Arakan commencing from the days of King Thirithudbamma (1622-38).The volumes for 1660 and the following years carry information about Shah Shuja in Arakan, but unfortunately the volume for 1662 is missing. The Daghregister, being a contemporary factual account, is quite accurate and detached about matters in which the Dutch themselves are not parties.
The Daghregisler for 1661 contains three letters from the Dutch factor stationed at Mro-haung (Mrauk-U), Gerrit van Voorburg, during the first year of Shuja’s stay in Arakan which record the continuing misfortunes of the unfortunate Mughal prince. Voorburg states in one “that Shah Shuja was brought from Bengal to Dianga, a fort on the river bank opposite to Chittagong, on the King of Arakan’s armada.He arrived there 3 June 1660. From thence he had arrived at the capital 26 August.” 6
Says Munshi Muhammad Kszim in ‘Alamgirnamah’:
Shujs defeated, depressed, disturbed and dejected reached Jahangiraagar with great difficulty on the 11th day of Sha’ban. In the meantime Zain al-din, Shuja’ s son, who had remained at Jahangirnagar sent at the instance of Shuja emissaries to the Court of Arakaa with presents and requests for help to suppress Munawwar Khan, Zamindar of Jahangirnagar, who united with other zamtndars had defied Shuja’s authority. The Raja sent an army of monstrous and wild people with whose help Munawwar Khan was crushed. Zain al-din gave the members of Arakanese army money and other presents and sent them back with a message to the Raja to the effect that in the event of his father ever needing to go to Arakan, he should, send some men to escort him to that place. The Raja gave instructions to the Governor of Chittagong to send some men if any such eventuality arose. (Later, after Shuja’s defeat near Tanda on the 5th April 1660), he reached Jahangirnagar and … realized that on the face of Khan Azam’s vigorous chase with his grand army he was left with no alternative other than to fly away towards Arakan. He sent someone with a request to the Raja of Arakan to send some of his men who could escort him there in safety. He waited for a month but no news came during this time while Muazzam Khan was nearing Jahsngirnagar … … (On the day after leaving Dacca, and after having left Sripur he) “met with a band of Armed Arakanese who were coming to him on the (previously mentioned) request of his son Zain al-din…….”7
Francois Bernier, French physician, who was in the service of Prince Dara, one of the rival princes of Shuja, spent ten long years of his life in Hindustan and left behind a narrative of these years. About this incident of Shah Shuja’s life he writes:
The Prince being destitute of ships to put to sea, and not knowing whither to fly for refuge, sent his eldest son, 8 Sultan Banque, to the King of Racon or Mog, or Gentile or idolater, to ascertain if he would grant him temporary asylum and a passage to Moka when the favourable, season arrived; it being his wish to proceed thence to Meca, and afterward take up his residence in Turkey or Persia. The King’s answer was in the affirmative, and expressed in the kindest terms. Sultan Banque returned to Dake (Dacca) with a large number of galeasses ( as they call the half galleys of this King) manned by Franks, for so I would designate these fugitive Portuguese, and other wandering Christians, who had entered into the King’s service, and whose chief occupation was to ravage this part of Lower Bengale.9
Niccolao Manucci, a Venetian gunner, in service also with Prince Dara was in India between the years 1656-1712 and in his work, be also makes reference to this appeal for refuge in Arakan as follows:
With the reinforcements sent by Aurangzeb and the assistance given by the petty rajahs and the governors, Mir Jumla attacked Shah Shuja with such violence that he was reduced to the last stage of desperation … He therefore resolved to send his son. Sultan Bang, to the King of Aracao (Arakan), a heathen otherwise known as Mogo (Magh), beseeching him most earnestly to afford aid in his distress; if be did not agree to that, would he, at the least, consent to receive him and his men within his territory until the season came for a voyage to Persia or to Mouca (? Makkah, Meccah). When fortune should again be kind to him, be would hereafter recompense him for his favour. The King of Arakan received the prince Sultan Bang with much courtesy and kindness, and after a few days sent him back to his father with a number of boats called jalias,10 which are small galleys commanded by “Portuguese subjects of the said King of Arakan, inhabitants of Chatigao 11 (Chittagong) on the frontier of that .kingdom…12
Thomas Bowrey, free-lance ship’s captain, who had frequented the Far Eastern seas between 1669 and 1679 and heard, obviously many a tale in many an eastern port, records;
Sultan Sujah (now in adversitie), destitute of ships whereby to transport himselfe, his case being most desperate, not knowing which way lyeth his Safety, be sendeth to the Kinge of Arackan, (a neighbouringe Kingdom) craveing his Assistance and Entertainment there, which was readily granted, and not more readily then accepted. The Arackan Kinge sends a parcell of Gylvars vizt, gallys, well fitted and manned with Arackaners and Frangues, who came through the rivers to Dacca. ..13
Gautier Schouten (or more correctly Wouter Schouten) in the course of his duty as a Dutch East India Company medical officer, visited Goa, Malabar and Coromandel coasts, Bengal delta, Arakan, Malacca, Java. Sumatra, Celebes, Moluccas etc.,
Schouten’s observations as recorded in his itinerary fill out gaps in our information—though not as fully as we would desire. The testimony of the official records of the Mrauk-U factory of the Dutch East India Company, however, authenticates and elaborates the sketchy and, at times, confusing account in Schouten’s work.
Schouten’s conflicting account states, after a reference to a circumstance leading to Shah Shuja’s advent in Arakan, that “even while the people were still enjoying the thoughts of the pleasures they had, (of some celebrations and festivities which had just been concluded in the royal city of Mrauk-U), a great cloud rose in the West which alarmed them.The whole place was soon alarmed and moving. A Prince Maure arrived, coming from Bengal as a refugee to Arakan, and demanded asylum for himself and for all whom he had influenced…….”
Here Schouten interrupts his narrative with a long interpolation on the history of the Wars of Succession among the sons of Emperor Shah Jahan but thereafter resumes:
The news of their march reached the Court; the King promptly dispatched some men to order their arrest, to demand whence they came and the reason they passed thus armed through his lands. Chasausa (Shah Shuja) replied that he was the prince of Bengal, that in order to evade the fury of the insolent conqueror he came to throw himself at the feet of the King of Aracan, to ask his protection, praying him not to consider what had passed between the two nations, and assuring him that be was eager to repent having offended, and of heaving turned his men against him, that notwithstanding the trouble which he had made for the King, he had such high regard for his generosity that he wished only to deliver himself into his hands, (rather than ) to fall in those of his own brother : that he would submit and would serve the King as he wished ; but he doubted that the Monarch would be touched by this unfortunate sadness of the Prince and would show no sign of compassion.
Chasausa and ail his followers halted, the envoys of the King returned with the response. The Monarch and all of his Court did not hesitate one moment to grant protection of the fugitive Prince and his family, on condition that they surrendered, their small weapons to which Chasausa could not make response unless he could favour the lives of his wives and children whom he loved, dearly. But he finally consented to be assured by them until he could find some ships of the Maures merchants, who would promise to take him to Persia.14
However the overwhelming consensus of opinion is that the King of Arakan, directly, or through his agent (governor at Chittagong), agreed to receive and shelter Shah Shuja, his family and his followers. We may accept this version of the events.
Shuja’s dolorous farewell to Dacca has been variously described. According to ‘Alamgirnamah, on Sunday, the 6th of Ramadan, 1070 A. H. (6th May 1660) Shuja with his three sons Zain al-din, Buland Akhtar and Zain al-Abedin, some nobles like Jan Beg, Sayyid ‘Alam with his faithful-to-the-last band of Barha Sayyids, Sayyid Quli Uzbek and Mirza Beg and a body of soldiers and servants boarded ships for Chittagong. The presence of Shuja’s wife, daughters and their attendant women is not specifically mentioned in this account although implied.
‘Amal-i-Salih hardly adds to our information when it cursorily mentions:”When Shah Shuja’ was informed of (Sultan Muhammad’s evasion) he lost heart, and with some of his Khans and with forty or fifty faithful servants, he embarked in a boat and proceeded to Makkah.15
Bernier who has been cited by San Shwe Bu as giving “the earliest independent account, of Shah Shuja’s participation in the bloody wars of the Moghul succession and of his subsequent fate, as well as: the fate of his- family” mentions the unhappy Prince embarking for Chittagong with his family consisting of his wife, his three sons,. (including Sultan Banque) while Manucci sets out in details the harrowing tale of the unfortunate beginning of Shuja’s misadventures, commencing ironically enough from the bank of the Buriganga, once the very heart of the Subah, he had governed for seventeen long years. Says Manucci:-
He (Prince Shah Shuja) took ship at the city of Dacca (Dhakah), which is on the boundary of Bengal on the bank of a very large river. But there was much confusion and great hurry caused by the necessity under which he lay. For Mir Jumlah did all that was possible to seize him.
In these straits, the women, who according to custom, ought not to allow themselves to be seen in public, so as not to seem immodest or to be considered polluted, sat there in the view of everybody. Being a new thing it raised great compassion in the beholders, and caused much sorrow to the prince. In one boat were two hundred and fifty ladies, the most lovely in his harem mingled with soldiers and sailors. In desperation he ordered the boat to be sunk, as was done, without reflecting on the people in it or the treasure loaded in it, or the rich Jewels the ladies were wearing…16
Bowrey makes bare mention of “the sultan, his wifes and children, etc.” boarding the Arakaner and Frangue (Arakanese and Portuguese) galeasses. ‘Hamilton speaks only of ‘‘his wives and children…and about two hundred of his retinue who were resolved to follow his fortune.” Schouten, however, records that “when we were at Arakan,…the fleeing prince with all his family and about five hundred of his most faithful men and their families, entered the Realm and advanced towards Aracan.” 17
Generally speaking, later historians have based their narratives on one or the other of the authorities cited above. Phayre in his History of Burma, says that on receipt of a satisfactory reply “the prince with his retinue, together with his wife, sons and three daughters proceeded from Dacca to a port on the river Megna, where they embarked in Galleys.”
Dow’s account is, however, very different. He says that;
“He (Shuja) (at Dacca) had but little money, and he could have no army…When the news of the approach of the Imperialists arrived, he called together his few friends. He acquainted them with his resolution of flying beyond the limits of an empire, in which he had now nothing to expect but misfortunes; and be asked them, whether many preferred certain misery with their former lord, to an uncertain pardon from a new master?
To the feeling and generous, misfortune secures friends. They all declared their resolution to follow Suja to whatever part of the world he should take his flight. With fifteen hundred horse,he directed his march from Dacca toward the frontiers of Assam.18
Stewart, who follows Dow very closely, goes into even greater details. According to him:
Meer Jumla…marched with his forces towards Dacca; and the unfortunate Shujaa, whose treasures were now nearly exhausted, and his army reduced to fifteen hundred horse, finding opposition vain, resolved in order to spare the further effusion of blood, to abandon his country ;– by embarking on board a ship at the port of Chittagong and proceeding from thence to the sacred shrines of Arabia, where be might spend the remainder of his life in acts of devotion….If this measure failed him, be still had the alternative of proceeding to Arracan, and of soliciting the protection of the prince of that country.
Having thus reconciled himself to his adverse fate, he placed his family and valuables upon elephants; and attended by a small body of cavalry, and a few of his friends, who generally refused to leave him in his distress, he crossed the liver, Burhampooter.19
2. Dramatis Personnae
The stage thus set, now the dramatis personnae is to be introduced. Of the discomfited prince, Shah Shuja who is the hero of this tragedy, enough is known to students of history. The lesser characters, however, need some description, or, at least mention.
All the contemporary chroniclers and most later writers who feed on them are agreed that Shuja’ was accompanied on this journey into the unknown by his wife (by a second marriage, the first having died), his three (some say two) daughters and three ( also two or even four according to some ) sons in addition to a body of retainers and followers numbered variously from three thousand to forty. Similar divergence of information persists even over the principal characters. One, and only one, account mentions the name of the Begum as Pearee or Piara Banu 20 which is confusing since according to some other accounts, it is sated that Sanda Thudhamma’s mad infatuation which led to a welter of blood and arson, was for Piaree Banu herself, named by other historians also as Gujrukh Banu, the eldest princess, wife of Prince Muhammad, son of the Emperor Aurangzeb, to whom San Shwe Bu also gives the additional alias of Chand Bibi. The second princess is variously named as Roushan Ara Begum or Mah Khanam, 21 the third daughter mentioned by one or two historians was named Amena Banu 22 but called by one or two chroniclers, as Peari Banu again. One such was San Baw U, who not only makes the blunder but also citing Maha Razawin, the traditional palm leaf Arakanese historical Ms, mentions in the party, a sister of Shuja’ named Sabe Bee.23 It is possible that San Shwe Bu’s Chand Bibi and San Baw U’s Sabe Bee were one and the same person.
The number and names of the sons of Shah Shuja’ are also not distinctly mentioned by all chroniclers and appear to be confused. ‘Alamgtrnamah, however, specifically mentions the princes Zain al-din, Buland Akhtar and Zain al ‘Abedin. Bemier, Manucci, and Bowrey mention Sultan Bang 24 (also spelt as Bank, Banque or Bon) as Shuja’s son and apparently the most active one and suggest that it was he who established personal liaison with King Sanda Thudhamma prior to Shah Shuja’s leaving for Arakan and also that, subsequent to Shuja’s arrival, it was he again who deputized for his father in visiting the royal court of Mrauk-U. Gerrit van Voorburg, the Dutch chief factor at Maruk-U, in a letter to his headquarter at Batavia mentions “Bon Sulthan” as the eldest son and also corroborates incidentally the fact that there were three sons with Shuja in Arakan.
The minor characters are variously mentioned. Whatever might have been their original number, it must have dwindled on the way from Dacca from the originally estimated three thousand soldiers to a remnant of two hundred and, in the last resort, the forty weary and dispirited refugees who are said to have entered Mrauk-U. It also appears that besides a small number of staunch and loyal-to-the-last soldiery who served as Shuja’s personal bodyguard; there was a handful of courtiers and noblemen including some spiritual advisers and religious men the rest were humbler followers, retainers and servants, some with their families.
In the beginning these loyal friends and retainers included Jan Beg, Sayyid Alam Badah-Kash, Sayyid Quir Uzbek and Mirza Beg. Jan Beg, after one day’s travel, deserted and others also dropped off on the way – until only Sayyid Alam Badah-Kash with his small band of Barha Sayyids and Sayyid Quir Uzbek, numbering, in all, twelve Mughals, were left with him to the very last.25
3. Flight to Arokan
Act one of the drama opens with the decision of Shah Shuja’ to leave Bengal before the hastening Imperial forces under the victorious general, Mir Jumia,could reach Jahangirnagar.The mode of the Prince’s departure is variously described. Of all the accounts, those of ‘Alamgirnamah and Dow seem to be the most graphic and apparently reliable and yet conflicting. All the other accounts are based on one or the other of these, or on their off-shoots or adaptations. Muhammad Kazim Khan, chronicler of the first-named work, narrates:
…. He … left Jahangirnagar on Sunday 6th Ramadan 1070 A.H. (6th May 1660) along with his sons…, nobles…, his army and attendants and servants. From Jabangirnagar, he came to Dhapa, 4 kurohs from there. He was deserted there by many of his soldiers and boatmen who returned to Jahangirnagar. Next day Shuja’… came to Sripur… 12 kurohs from Jahangirnagar. Here he was deserted by his old comrade Jan Beg and some other people. On the following day after starting towards Arakan, they met on the way a number of war-boats of Arakanese and Portuguese sent by the governor of Chittagong to assist Shsh Shuja’ and his party under the orders of the King of Arakan. On the same day they reached Pargana Lakhi-dih (Lakhipur) and on the next morning reached Bhalua en route to Arakan. After an abortive attempt to take the fort of Bhalua, Sbuja’ saw the inevitability of his proceeding to Arakan. On 12th May 1660, the unfortunate Mughal Prince and his much decimated band of followers bade their farewells to the land which had sustained them since their births. Passing through difficult days and hazardous routes they reached the “island” of Arakan which is the worst and meanest of the places in the world and where infidels reside and where due to his misfortunes and mischiefs he would be raised only on Doomsday.26
The escape by ships to Chittagong is corroborated in a number of accounts. An earlier writer, Muhammad Salih Kambu, writes in ‘Amal-i-Salih that Shuja’ losing heart at his son-in-law Sultan Muhammad’s evasion,”with some of his Khans and with forty or fifty faithful servants,…embarked in a boat and proceeded to Makka. 27 Khafi Khan says “he loaded two boats with his personal effects, vessels of gold and silver, jewels,treasures and other appendages of royalty…and when Shuja’ saw that be had no ally or friend anywhere left, and those whom he had deemed faithful had deserted him, he conceived the idea of occup!ing one of the fortresses on the frontiers of the Raja of Rakhang, and addressed the Raja on the subiect.28“
Bernier and Manucci also agree that Shuja’s party fled from Dacca on a large number of galeasses (jalias or jylyars) manned by Franks i.e.,Portuguese and other working Christian sailors and raiders in the service of the King of Arakan.
The account of Gerrit van Voorburg, as preserved in the Daghregister of 1661 states unequivocally that “Shah Shuja’ was brought from Bengal to Dianga, a port on the river bank opposite to Chittagong, on the King of Arakan’s armada. From thence he had arrived at the capital on 26 August.” 29
San Shwe Bu’s version of Arakanese history for the first part of the episode of ShahShuja’, follows that of Bernier somewhat closely. He states that the fleeing Mughal prince with his family and retainers were taken to Mrauk-U (not Dianga or the Naaf) on Arakanese galleys manned by the Portuguese freebooters in Sanda Tlindhamma’s service.30
There are other versions disconating the theory of escape by sea.For example Schouten does not appear to support the theory that the fleeing prince used ships;rather he suggests an overland march from Dacca since he records:
Chasausa…annoyed by the overflowing of the waters of the Ganges took the retreat towards Dacca, located on the eastern frontier of Bengal.
In this extremity they proposed to disembark at this place where he hoped to find some ships; and to go by the Red Sea to Mecca, from there to Persia, demanding the aid and protection of the Shah (?) But he found no ship at Dacca. Meanwhile he had no time to lose.It was necessary to decide immediately whether to fall into the hands of Jembla or to join the realm of Aracan against whom the Bengalis were at war, and to go throwing themselves at the feet of the King, imploring his mercy and protection. Both the choices appeared to him equally difficult….It was consequently when we were at Aracan that the fleeing Prince with all his family and about five hundred of his most faithful men and their families entered the Realm and advanced toward Aracan.31
Alexander Dow’s narrative runs as follows:
“With fifteen hundred horse he directed, his march from Dacca toward the frontiers of Assam. Jumla was close at his heels; but Suja having crossed, the Baramputre, which running: through the Kingdom of Assam, falls into Bengal, entered, the mountains of Rangamati. Through almost, impervious woods, over abrupt rocks, across deep valleys and heading torrents, he continued his flight toward Aracan. Having made a circuit of near five hundred miles through the wild mountains of Tippera, he entered Aracan with a diminishing retinue.32
Stewart’s account is on the same lines but even more detailed, and is probably the version which was accepted and published by Phayre. It runs:
Having therefore reconciled himself to his adverse fate he placed his family and valuables upon elephants; and attended by a small body of cavalry, and a few of his friends, who generously refused to leave him in his distress he crossed the river Burhampooter; and, having entered the wild mountains of Tipperah, after a long and wearisome journey he reached Chittagong.At this place he had the mortification to learn, that there was not a ship in the port; and that, as the monsoon was raging with violence, no vessel could have attempted the voyage to Arabia, at that season of the year. He had now no option left, but of proceeding to Arracan, or falling into the hand of his pursners, of whose approach he received too well-grounded intelligence. He therefore discharged all his troops; and accompanied only by his family, and forty domestics or friends, he continued his journey along the sea-shore; and at length, crossed the river Naaf, which separates Arracan from Bengal. As he had taken the precaution of sending forward an envoy, to explain to the Raja his situation, and to solicit his hospitality and protection, he was met on the frontier by an officer from that prince, with assurances of his protection and friendship.33 Phayre partially corroborates and elaborates the last account.
“…the prince (and party) proceeded from Dacca to a port on the river Megna 34 where they embarked in galleys (for the seaport of Makkah)” at this point Phayre says that “As it was the season of the boisterous south-west monsoon, the galleys could not leave the river, and fearful of being taken prisoners, the whole party landed, on what was then the territory of Tippera, and proceeded by land to Chittagong. From thence they travelled through a difficult country to the Naaf river ; crossing which, they entered Arakan and arrived at the capital about the end of the year 1660. 35 The prince was well received. He was anxious to leave for Mecca …36
Obviously Phayre’s mention of Shuja’s use, in the main, of the land-route is derived from the account recorded by Dow.
The above-cited proponents of the theory that Shah Shuja’ did most of his travelling from Dacca to Arakan by land – using horses, elephants – and even camels (!) for this purpose are responsible for two incidental, albeit controversial, points about this celebrated flight.
Mahbub-ul-Alam,a modern historian of Chittagong, referring to the flight of Shah Shuja’ mentions, among other interesting matters, that Shuja’ discomfited in war, sent an envoy to Sanda Thudhamma for arranging asylum in Arakan being aware of the strong Muslim influence prevalent at Mrauk-U. He adds that the Mughal Prince asked inter alia for the assistance from the King in the way of the use of one or more of the “celebrated” Arakanese sea-going vessels 37 to carry him and his party to Makkah and, Sanda Thudbamma having agreed, Shuh Shuja’ with three thousand Mughal soldiers left Dacca and arrived at Chittagong. On the way, Mahbub-ul-Alam relates, using apocryphal sources and also the Rajamala, that Shuja’ met the exiled Raja of Tripura, Govinda Manikya, who welcomed him and promised him aid.In gratitude Shuja’ gave him the gifts of a diamond ring and a nimcha (a short sword).This writer also adds that before leaving, Shuja’ conquered Comilla and built a mosque named after him.He further suggests that the road from Dalldkandi to Arakan via Chittagong, the forerunner of the modern Arakan road, was built by Shuja’ and his followers:38
Yet another modern historian of Chittagong, S.M.AIi, in recounting the sad fate of Shah Shuja’, and basing the latter portion of his finding on Hall’s interpretation of the Dirghregisler volumes for 1661-65 A.D.accepts the same version of Shuja’s overland flight as Mahbub-ul-Alam and his stay at Comilla to build the famous Shuja’ Masjid there, prior to his passing through the Chittagong Hill Tracts where be met his old friend, Govinda Manikya.The latter is said to have given him a warm welcome and in return received the traditionallv mentioned nimcha and diamond ring.39
However, popular traditions, ballads, folk-tales and songs on which certain writers tend to depend a little too much, not rarely produce too many and quite conflicting versions, setting out grains of fact overlaid with pounds of romance and imagination.According to the Tippera District Gazetteer, Govinda Manikya had the mosque built in commemoration of the helpless Mughal prince who had, in token of personal friendship in his days of distress and deprivation, presented him with the sword and ring.40 While this is one of the possibilities, other popular versions of the origin of the mosque run to the effect that the mosque was built by people of the locality in commemoration of the well-loved and much lamented Prince who had been so intimately associated with the province of Bengal and the Bengalis for nearly seventeen years. Strangely, however, Stewart whose narrative of the woes of Shsh Shuja’ is the amplest, fails to mention either the mosque or the so-called “Shuja’ Road” ascribed to the party of the refugees from Dacca to Arakan. In his History of Bengal there is also no reference whatsoever to such an interesting and intriguing incident as the meeting of the two royal exiles, Shuja’ and Govinda Manikya, although he does mention the former passing through “Rangamati…, almost impervious woods, over abrupt rocks, across deep valleys and headings torrent.” 41
A further point to be noticed is the fact that several historians mention that Shuja’s first thought on deciding to escape from Bengal was to proceed to Mecca from the port of Chittagong or, later, even from Mrauk-U, whicli in those days had a harbour where ocean-going ships plying between the Dutch East Indies, the Malaccas, Malayasia, Tenasserim, Pegu and the Coromandel ports on the Bay of Bengal, used to anchor for the discharge and loading of cargoes.While this interpretation would appear to be plausible since all pious Muslims contemplate a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, at least, once in a lifetime, and since Shuja’s continuing misfortunes would certainly have called for withdrawal from the world and falling back on a life of rumination and meditation, yet the probability was that in the first instance, Shuja’ wanted to proceed by ship to the port of Mocha (Moka) on the Red Sea on the southern coast of Arabia, and thence to Makkah before leaving finally for Persia or Turkey where he hoped for permanent asylum. This theory is upheld by the fact that while Makkah unlike Mocha was removed from the sea, Mocha, in this period, was a flourishing seaport.42 Bernier, in his narrative makes the point quite clear. He mentions that Shuja’ wanted to go to Moka first and thence to Makkah.
4. Arrival at Mrauk-U
The second act of the drama began with the arrival of Shah Shuja’ and party at Mrauk-U and their reception which from several contemporary accounts seems to have been ostensibly warm and cordial.
The historians of Mughal India stop with Shuja’s departure from Dacca or, at best, with his arrival at Chittagong and ‘Alamgirnamah is silent from this point onward except for the following remarks: “Passing through difficult days and hazardous routes (Shuja’) reached the island of Arakan which is the worst and meanest of the places in the world and where infidels reside where due to his misfortunes and mischiefs he (Shuja’) would be raised only on Doomsday.”
Saqi Mustad Khan closes his brief reference to this episode by saying that “After traversing calamitous regions, he reached the most villainous island of Arakan where he was entrapped in the snares of that land of infidels.”
Khafi Khsn’s conclusion is near about the same: “But he was unable to carry his design into execution and at length in the greatest wretchedness and distress he fell into the clutches of the treacherous infidel ruler of that country, and according to common rumour he was killed, so that no one ascertained what became of him.”
The ‘Amal-i’-Salih’s account of the end of Shuja’ concluded with these words:”From that time  to the present year 1081 A.H., no one knows whether he is alive or dead.43
Fortunately, however, reliable evidence is available about the most critical period in Shuja’s life. The Daghregister which is chronologically the earliest authenticated record of this last phase says : “( Shah Shuja’ had been arrested there at Dianga on 3rd June. From thence he had arrived at the capital on 26 August. He and his suit had been lodged in a bamboo house above the town, and no foreigner was allowed to go near them.Trouble with the Mughal power in India was anticipated for the armada had been posted at Dianga to prevent an attack, and troops sent there to support it….”44
Schouten’s contribution is fuller although it conflicts with the consensus of opinion that Shuja’ had been asked to come to Arakan by Sanda Thudhamma.”He betook him then to the city of Arakan (Mrauk-U or Mrohaung) where was the Court and he was favourably received by the King, who promised his surety…”45
Says Bernier among whose sources was a person at the head of the Factory which the Hollanders maintained in this region: “The king of Arakan gave him a tolerable reception, and supplied them with every necessary of life.”46
Manucci’s version is that “After all these afflictions and various other encounters by this unfortunate prince in his flight they arrived in the kingdom of Arakan where they met demonstrations of affection…Some days after the arrival of Prince Shah Shujah in the kingdom of Arakan, where they had been conducted with much honour, in conformity with the customs of those kings, to a palace outside the city, he was invited by the king to sit with him.” Manucci’s story continues that Shuja’ diplomatically refused the invitation sending his son”Sultan Bang” who was nauseated by the dish of raw buffalo blood mentioned as an Arakanese delicacy.47
Bowrey in mentioning the welcome Shuja’ received on his arrival from Chittagong suggests that it was “Shuja’s store of treasure, vizi., gold and silver rupees, vast riches in jewels, namely diamonds, rubies, and pearls, which caused a kinder reception than he expected,and which soon after (brought about) his desiruction.”48
Hamilton, a sea captain who bad been sailing in the Far Eastern waters for over ten years between 1669-79, in the record of his travels, narrates :
It was into this country [Arakan] that the unfortunate Sultan Shujah came as suppliant for protection when Emirjemal chased him out of Bengal. He carried his wives and children with him, and about two hundred of his retinue, who were resolved to follow his fortune, and he carried six or eight camels load of gold and jewels which proved his ruin. ..When Sultan Shujah first visited the king of Aralcan, he made him presents suitable to the quality of the donor and receiver the Arackanese promising him all the civilities due to so great a prince, with a safe asylum for himself and family.49
Dow and Stewart (and after them, Spearman and Phayre also) hold that the party of refugees were well received on their entering Arakan, they were met by a cavalcade some distance from the capital and escorted to their living quarters assigned to them viz. at what has been called by San Baw U “at a beautiful and romantic spot on the right bank of the river, Einda-nadi or (lnza Nadi or Wathi Creek) at the base of Bahbudaung Hill.” Stewart’s description is more detailed; “The spot on which was situated the temporary house fitted up for Shujaa, was a narrow bank, with the river in the front and stupendous cliffs behind: the only approach was, therefore by one or other fiand…” Anyway, according to Stewart, after Shuja’s arrival at his new quarters “There ( at the house ) the assurances of the Raja were again repeated ; and, as a proof of his hospitality, a large supply of provisions, fruit etc. were presented, as a welcome offering.”50
It is unfortunate that another potentially rich source of information, the poet Alaol, although first-hand spectators of the momentous affairs from very close range is understandably silent. His rice and curry and even his very life depended on the whims of the capricious autocrat of Mrauk-U. In fact, as we shall see later, he himself became an innocent victim in the aftermath of the Muslim revolt which was shortly afterwards inspired and led by Shah Shuja’.51
The Arakanese accounts of the reception of Shah Shuja are, however, most interesting. The relevant portion of U Nga me’s Maha Razawin (or the Great Chronicle of Kings) on palm leaf runs as follows:
The Myinmo Mountain 84000 yojanas above the ground-level and 84000 below has on its summit the great celestial city by the name of Sudarsana wherein Magha the King of gods with his Queen Sujata rules. King Sanda Thudhamma reigns in the royal Capital of equal splendour, so majestic and dazzling to behold that Kings from all parts of this continent are bewitched by its sight. Prince Thet Thuza (Shah Shuja’) fighting for the throne of his royal father, but losing in the attempt came [to Arakan] for royal protection under King Sanda Thudhamma. Offeriag the hand of his beloved, daughter,a princess of foremost beauty, to be the King’s consort. “0 royal lady, which powerful angel has so fashioned your royal lady, which, powerful angel has so fashioned, your destiny and due to the result of what great merit, that you possess such feminine charms?”
In the “Middle Country” [India.] the great King [father of Shah Shuja'] ruled for a long period, and when he grew old and feeble, his sons fought for his throne. The ‘country’ was thrown into disorder and Thet Thuza losing all chances of victory sought protection under King Sanda Thudhamma with all his family, retinue and troops including horses and elephants of war.
When Thet Thuza got under the protective wing of Sanda Thudhamma of glorious power, the great king, being a monarch over a hundred lesser Kings, and an observer of 10 Kingly virtues, ever pious and compassionate, would not treat Thet Thuza as a potential enemy to be done to death, but gladly offered, him the orotection that he was sorely in need of. The great King was in truth aspiring to be the Buddha hereafter.52
San Shwe Bu reproduces the report of Arakanese historians thus:
Sometime in the month of September 1660, Shah Shuja, together with his family and retainers were conveyed to the Arakanese capital Mrauk-U (present Myohanng) in galleys manned by the Portuguese who were then subjects of the king of Arakan, Sanda Thudhamma-raza of revered memory. The refugees were well received and the prince and his family were treated with all the honours due to the princes of the royal blood. Shuja then explained his plight and asked, for assistance. To this the king readily agreed, for he sent to Bengal a large army with the greater portion of his fleet…53
5. Seeds of Discord
The warmth of the reception cooled off soon, in fact much too soon, for various insidious influences were at work upon the complex character of Sanda Thudhamma.
Khan Khanan Mir Jumla, having failed to seize Shuja’ and his party before they crossed the easternmost frontier of Bengal was now desired by his imperial master Aurangzib to secure them and bring them back to Bengal.
According to Bernier, “Emir-Jemla had offered the King in the name of Aurang Zebe, large sums of money, and other considerable advantages, on condition of his delivering up the Prince…” Mir Jumla’s intervention is also mentioned by Hamilton as follows: “When Emirjemal knew where Sultan Shujah had taken sanctuary, he sent a letter to the king of Arackan, wherein he demanded the poor distrest prince to be delivered to him; otherwise he threatened to bring his army into his country to take him by force.” 54
Dow is more vivid in his account:
“Jumla lost sight of the fugitive when he entered the mountains beyond the Bramputre… But Shuja though beyond the reach of Jumla’s arms, was not beyond his policy.The place of his retreat was known; and threatening letters from the visier,whose fame bad passed the mountains of Aracan, raised terrors in the mind of the Raja.He thought himself unsafe in his natural fastness, and a sudden coolness to Shuja appeared in his behaviour.”55
Stewart’s summing up of the situation was similar:
“For some time the conduct of the Raja was unexceptionable, but, whether alarmed by threats, or won by the bribes of the Governor of Bengal, his behaviour suddenly changed; he became cold and reserved; and his servants no longer attended to the rights of hospitality.” 56
Phayre says that while Shuja’ was keen on leaving Aracan for Makkah, Mir Jumla’s emissaries had arrived at Mrauk-U requesting the surrender of Shah Shuja’ with his family in exchange for large sums. 57
Details of Mir Jumla’s activities in this regard are learnt from the Daghregister for 1660 which preserves a letter from the Director and Council of the Dutch factory at Surat stating that “the new Mughal Emperor ‘Orancha’ (Aurangzib) is securely established on the throne and has sought Dutch help in capturing Prince ‘Chasousa’ (Shah Shuja), who was fled from Bengal to Arakan.”
In a further letter dated 29th November 1660 from the Hughli Dutch factory stating that “the new nabob appointed in Shah Shuja’s place (Mir Jumla) had held up all the Dutch ships there on 5 September and demanded their assistance in getting possession of the refugee prince. And the Director had been compelled to send a letter to Arakan, on the nabob’s behalf, requesting the King to hand over Shah Shuja.The King, however, replied to this request by sending an envoy to Dacca with an arrogantly worded letter demanding of the nabob the cession of certain territories, which he asserted he had held when Shah Shuja was nabob. Evidently the nabob hoped to gain his end by peaceable ineasiires.” In reply the nawab was diplomatic “for he dismissed the Arakanese envoy handsomely with a present of one hundred rupees.
Then he (the Nawab) applied once more to the unwilling Dutch factors for the loan of a vessel to convey a further message to the King of Arakan who reported to Batavia that afier delaying matters as long as possible, they had been forced to give way.” 58
Hall says: “But this promise (to Shuja’ to furnish ships sailing for Makkah) remained unfulfilled and the fugitive prince found his position intolerable. Repeated demands for his surreader came from Mir Jumla, and Sanda Thudhamma, expecting trouble, posted his fleet off Dianga and sent up reinforcements. A state of alarm developed and a rumour spread that Mir Jumla had taken Dianga…” 59
Schouten’s account describes in details a clash between the forces of Mir Jumla and the Mrauk-U forces. It runs:
At this same time it happened that the famous General Emir Jembla, named Nawab after having reduced the affairs of Chasausa, had plans to follow the Prince as far as be could and he sent ahead with a numerous army as far as the village of Dianga on the border of the realm of Arakan, with plans to enter with fire and sword. The news had alarmed the entire countryside, especially in the area near the war-boats. One saw everywhere people who were fleeing with their families and their efforts in order to save themselves in the capital city…
In order to quickly arrange the defence, the King despatched his emissaries in all directions to direct all the subjects who would be better able to carry weapons, and in this way he quickly assembled, a strong army.One sees also a large number of galleasses equipped for battle, called into service, manned by a large number of boatmen and mounted with cannon made of small precious pieces of gun-metal, and sent on towards Dianga.60
The Arakanese defence measures according to the Dutch surgeon were adequate. These were the redoubling of frontier guards, strong defence of fortified points, stationing of war-boats “as sentinels on all the internal routes like canals as also external routes along on the sea coast,” and strong surveillance was kept on Muslims of Aracan while stranger Muslims without passports were not to be allowed (ingress and) egress from the country particularly by sea-going vessels to forrign seaports like Batavia. And His Arakanese Majesty broadcast orders,”to find the Prince of Bengal and bring him there (a prisoner).”
In the face of all these, Khan-i-Khanan could only huff and puff since his forces had been by-passed by Arakanese troops and marines in the difficult and, to him, unknown country.He demurred sometimes at the length of the Aracan borders which, he hurried through by cutting across rivers and canals when it was not easy to penetrate them, only committing other hostile acts like military activities, some pillaging and arson…Ultiniately the anticipated invasion fizzled out.” 61
The crisis which, ultimately precipitated the pouring out of the blue blood of Mughal royalty on the arid rocks of Mrauk-U was the Arakanese King’s mad and tempestuous passion, the passion of a spoilt, wilful child, for one of the Mughal princesses whom he wanted to wed and carry off into his seraglio.
Once again the Daghregister is our earliest authentic source of information on this sorry episode leading to the sombre finale of the tragdy.
Schouten’s narrative, difficult as it is ia the seventeenth century French text and somewhat obscure in translation, seems to hint at many places that the raids and alarms of Mir Jumla, and the frequent disappearances of Shuja’ and bands of his followers into the countryside were part of an arranged plan by which, the kingdom of Arakan might be beset and annexed. Although, in the light of subsequent developments, historical information which has become available now, tells us that this suspicion was utterly baseless yet, suspicion continued to cloud Sanda Thudhamma’s mind hereafter. Because of his greed for gold, his fear and suspicion and, later, lust for one of the Mughal Princesses, the King of Arakan appears to have harboured in his heart deeply hostile feelings againts Shuja’, his followers and even Muslims in general. Schouten remarks:
“…The natural aversion which, he (the King) had for the Bengalis, which a, beam of generosity had suspended for a moment, returned in force….” 62
San Shwe Bu mentions, at least, the alarms.He says:
“To this (Shuja’s request for assistance) he readily agreed for he sent to Bengal a large army with the greater portion of his fleet…
In Bengal the Arakanese army, surprised in a night attack, was completely defeated by the force under Mir Jumla.The Arakanese general and hundreds of soldiers were killed.The rest returned to relate their sad tale.” 63
San Baw U’s extract from Maha Razawin gives graphic details:
“Sanda-Thudamma agreed to terms (Shuja promised to return the twelve states of Bengal that formerly belonged to the fore-fathers of King Sanda Thudamma 64 and recognize his suzerainty) and ordered a fleet of over one thousand war-boat (graubs or Krwet-hles) 65 to be fitted out, over which letwe-Win-Mhoo was appointed admiral-in-chief. The expedition started and when it reached the place where there were whirlpools the Moghuls surprised them by delivering a night attack. In the fight that ensued Letwe-Win-Mhoo, the admiral-in-chief, lost his life. Being greatly handicapped, the Arakanese fleet “retired and returned home without its object being fulfilled.”66
The threats or importunities of Mir Jumla were, however, not the only factors which induced the Arakanese King not only to cool off in his relations with the exiled Muehal Prince but actually turn hostile. His kingdom, extensive on paper, was at best loosely organized and controlled and was preponderantly dependent for its fmancial resources upon the shares of the booty (plundered treasure, merchandise and slaves pirated) from ships in the coastal waters of the Bay of Bengal and the towns and villages on the coastal strips.
To an impecunious autocrat of this type, whatever Arakinese chroniclers may say about his lofty ambition of becoming a Buddha in the hereafter by keeping Shuja’ and his family “who had taken refuge in this country (Arakan) and were kept under the king’s protection and hospitality in contemplation of fulfilling the ten paramitas” 67 Shuja’s visit came as an unexpected but supremely welcome windfall and the King easily brushed off religious and moral scruples for the final act of the tragedy.
Almost all accounts of Shah Shuja’s last journey mention the rich treasure carried by him and his party to Mrauk-U. While ‘Alamgirnamah does not specifically mention the treasure carried along by Shuja’s party, it is obvious that a large body of this nature, without any other resources for the journey or, the years to come, could not have but provided amply in the shape of bullion, precious stones, and gold and silver coins. Khafi Khan records that boat-load of “his personal effects, vessels of gold and silver, jewels, treasure, and other appendages of royalty were taken away.”
Bernier say of Sultan Shuja’ that “…he yet wanted not roupies of gold and silver or gems. He had indeed too great a plenty of them; his great wealth being probably the cause of, or at least, very much contributing to, his ruin……” 68
Manucci also makes indirect references to Shuja”s treasure, one boat carrying a good part of which was sunk at his order on a very large river on the boundary of Bengal at the time of embarkation and, later, another boat-load containing the “most exquisite of his treasures” going aground on the shore of Arakan and becoming a total loss due to the deliberate villainy of old Manoel Coelho, one of Sanda Tbudbaroma’s notorious Portuguese sea-dogs, whose ship was one of those deputed to bring the party of royal exiles to Mrauk-U.
The episode of Manoel Coelho is confirmed by Gerrit van Voorburg who says : “The Portuguese who formed a large element of the Arakanese fleet, were reported to have ‘pinched’ not less than 23 tons of treasure from Shah Shuja on the way over from Bengal.” Even after this grievous loss, says Manucci, “The Magh was delighted at the coming of Sultan Bang, expecting he would offer him many jewels, stones of price, and cost pieces of cloth.” Dow agrees that “the wealth of his ( Sanda Thudhamma’s) unfortunare guest became also an object for his avarice.” 69
Bowrey’s reference to the wealth brought into Arakan by this band of refugees has already been noticed as also Hamilton’s. Both of them suggest, as also do Bernier and Dow, that this vast treasure was probably the cause of Shuja’s ruination.70
Once the veneer of hospitality on one hand, and meek submissiveness on the other, had cracked and begun to peel off, thiogs became more and more strained and minor incidents kept in occurring. One such incident which seemed to be, and was indeed, a prelude to later and more serious events was reported in the Daghregister and confirmed by Schouten. One of the Mrauk-U Dutch factor’s letters mention:
In December a party of seventy or eighty Moors coming from Bengal to join Shah Shuja. In Arakan had run amok, killed some Arakanese and nearly set fire to the King’s palace. Whereupon the King had them all killed save three whose lives had been spared. And he was only dissuaded by his mother and some of the grandees from visiting Shah Shuja with the same treatment. They argued that killing princes was a dangerous sport; if his people acquired, a taste for it they might not spare, him also. 71
Schouten in explaining the causes of the rupture between the host and his helpless guest says that “the King’s favour lasted briefly and the promises given were soon retracted. The natural aversion which he had for the Bengalis, which a beam of generosity has suspended for a moment, returned in force. The desire to profit by the treasure, of silver and precious stones which the fugitive Prince had taken overcame him; and finally, all those friends who had made him (Shuja) welcome turned against him furiously.” 72
Snuja’ had by this time come to lose confidence in the many and specious promises made by Sanda Thudhamma to provide sea-going vessels to carry him and his family to Makkah. More than eight months had passed since his request for a ship but nothing had materialized.
He was also sensitive enough to appreciate “the lessening confidence which was being shown to him and by the manner in which he was observed.” He, therefore, began to deem it expedient to plan for flight if hs would save his life, possibly by night, and ultimately find refuge in Persia.
As a part of this plan, says Schouten, Shuja’ on the ground that his health, was deteriorating and that the air of Arakan had not been good for him, sought and received royal permission to go into the countryside now and then. Taking advantage of this permission many times afterwards, he secretly sent, by diverse methods about four-fifths of the Bengali army (remnants of the soldiers who had followed him into Arakan) near the frontier which was nearest to the side where he (Shuja’) had his residence. Schouten’s narrative continues:
Upon arrival, they [Mughal soldiers of Shuja', lately arrived from Bengal] carried their armour to the place where they hoped to find their Prince, with the intent of leading him beyond the frontiers and onto the lands of Pegu, despite the opposition which those from Arakan had formed. But it was a desperate resolution which could have but terrible results.
From the time they were discovered some [Arakanese soldiers] demanded where they were going thus armed? They replied that they were subjects of Sultan Chasausa, and that they desired freedom to pass, because it was of great importance to the Prince, promising again that they were simply armed and would not injure or insult any one.
All they asked was granted, save permission to carry arms, and they were told that if they would relinquish them they would be allowed to pass—but not otherwise.The Bengalis who preferred to lose their lives rather than their arms, attempted to try to force their way through.The Aracans opposed them and attacked. The Bengalis defended themselves, and advanced their march until they were surrounded on all sides, had lost some of their men, they did not retreat without hope of his favour, [but finally] set fire to the homes.
As the wind was from the north-west, it flamed vehemently, and the destruction by burnmg where the great drought had made the material of which the barricades were constructed inflammable, having lighted the fire, it was at once in ftaroes, and in a few hours all the houses which had been below the wind—numbering more than a thousand—were consumed. A large number of pagodas were reduced to ashes, and the flames which shot into the air set fire…as far as the place where our vessels were at anchor, when it became necessary to cut the cables to save them and it was necessary to remove them promptly. But the fire was stopped exactly in this place, that is at riverside, after having destroyed a range of many miles of bouses.73
- Harvey, G. E., “The Fate of Shah Shuja 1661″ in the Journal of the Burma Research Society, vol. XII, Part l. April, 1922, pp. 107-115. Since its publication much fresh material has become available.
- Muhamrnad Enamul Huq and Abdul Karim, Bengali Literature in the Arakanese Court, Calcutta 1935 ); Mg San Shwe Bu., in the Report of the Superintendent, Archaeological Survey. Burma, for 1921, Rangoon. p. 37.
- Harvey, op. cit., 109.
- Mro-hanng (Burmese: Myobaung) meaning the “old city” was the Arakanese capital in days of the Mrauk- U Dynasty. I have preferred to use Mrauk-U which is another and the classical name for Mro-haung and which became the official name from 1430 A.C. onwards.
- Munshi Muhammad Kazim, Alamgtrnamah, Calcutta, Asiatic Society, 1868, p.556.
- Hall, D. G. E., using the Daghregister... for 1661 in his Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan :III Shuja and the Dutch withdrawal in 1665 in Journal of the Burma Research Society, xxvi, 1936, 21.
- ‘Alamgirnamah, 556-558.
- There is some confusion on this point. The eldest son was Zain al-din but several accounts mention Prince Bang (Bank or Banque) to have been the emissary to Sanda Thudhamma. Irvine’s suggestion that Prince Buland Akhtar may have been called Bank is acceptable. The Daghregister mentions “Bon Sulthan” as the eldest son, vide Manucci 369, p. 1 :
- Bernier, Francois, Travels in the. Mogul Empire A. D. 1656-68. Rev. edition by Archibald Constable, London, 1891, 109.
- A type of small war boat propelled by oars which could move in shallow waters variously called galleys, gylyars, jalias, jaloas, ialbas etc.
- Obviously the Portuguese settled at Dianga.
- Manucci, Niecolao, Storia do Mogor, or Mogul India 1555-170B),tr. By William lrvine, London, I, 369-370.
- Bowrey, Thomas, A Geographical. Account of Countries around the Bay of Bengal, ed. by Sir Richard Temple, London, Hakluyt Society 1905, 139-41.
- Schouten, Gautier, Voiage de Gautier Schouten aux Index orientates, commence l’an 1558 &- fini I’ An 1665 Traduit du Hollandais. Tome Premier ; Amsterdam 1707, 194, 249-250.
This material has been little exploited, so Far, and is a first-hand contemporary record of the fateful events at Mrauk-U in 1660-1661 where Schouten was at the time.
- The History of India as told by its own Historians, ed. by Elliot & Dowson, London, vol. vii, Section Lxxix, 254, Fa. 1.
- Manocci, 370.
- Bowrey./Hamilton, Alexander, A New Account of the East Indies, Edinburgh, 1727, n, 27; Schouten, i, 229.
- Phayre, Lt General Arthur, History of Burma, London, 1883, 178; Dow, Alexander, The History of Hindoostan from the Death of Akbar to …Aurangzebe, London, 1772, 326-27.
- Stewart, Charles, The History of Bengal, London, 1813, 276-278.
- Dow, 331; His version is accepted by Beale, Thomas William, in his The Oriental Biographical Dictionary, Calcutta,, 1881, 217.
- Mahbub-ul-Alam, (History of Chttagong-old regime), Chittagong, 1965, 165 ;Bhuiyan,, Sultan Ahmed, ( Last Act in the Drama of Shah Shuja’s Life )in Bengali Academy Patrika, No. 3, Kartik-Paus. 1371, 65
- Amena’s Lament is a well-known item among Chittagooian folk-songs.
- This is the celebrated work of U Nga Me and was approved by King Sanda Thudhamma himself.
- See supra 199, fn. 2, Mahbub-ul-Alam mentions Muhammad as the first son and Zain al ‘Abedin as the second; op. cit., 165. By Muhammad, he apparently suggests Muhammad Banque or Buland Akhtar but as stated previously, Zain al-din was the eldest son.
- Alamgirnamah, 557; Mathir-i-‘Alamgiri, tr: Jadu Nath Sarkar, Calcutta, 1947, 18. Sarkar follows ‘Alamgirnamah for the first part of the narrative.
- Alamgirnatnah, 556-62; using a somewhat liberal, if compressed, translation of the Persian version.
- See The History of India by its own Historians, VII, 254, fn. 1.
- Kafi Khan’s Muntakhabul Lubab tr. in the same work. The History of India by its own Historians, VII, 254.
The reference to the frontier fortress probably relates to the Fort of Bhalua which was unsuceessfully attacked by Shuja’ was near to the border of Arakanese territories which then included Chittagong.
- Dianga was a port on the bank of the Karnafuli, opposite to Chittagong which was a flourishing settlement of Portuguese freebooters and raiders.
- San Shwe Bu. 38
- Schoutea, I, 229, A reference to the Realm in this extract presumably refers to the Arakanese Kingdom. In this case, it appears that Shuja’ and his party entered Arakanese territory, and passing through Chittagong, advanced towards Arakan proper.
- Dow, 327.
- Stewart, 277-8.
- It is rather difficult to identify the port.
- The date is inaccurate.The Daghregister gives the date as August 1660.
- Phayre, 178-9.
- History contradicts this: While Arakanese galleys infested the shallow coastal waters and rivers of Bengal and Arakan, they appeared to have no sea-going vessels capable of even crossing the Bay of Bengal.
- Mahbub-ul-Alam, 164-165. It is interesting to conjecture as to what aid the exiled King of Tippera could proffer to another exiled prince.
- Ali, S.M. History of Chittogong, Dacca, 1964, 51.
- Webster, J.E. Tippera: (Eastern Bengal Gazetteers), Allahabad, 1910, 21.
- Supra.This Rangamati was probably in Tippera and not in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.It is identified at the present day as Uoaipur, 19 miles due east of Comilla.
- Beroier, 109 reproduced at supra p.
- ‘Alamgtrnomah, 561-2 ; Ma’athir-i-‘Alamgiri, ( tr. by Jadu Nath Sarkar).Calcutta,1947, 18 : For the last reference in ‘Amal-i-Salih, see the History of India by its own Historians, tr. by Elliot and Dowson VII, 254, fn. 1.
- Hall, 24, quoting Gerrit van Voorburg. It is interesting to note that although, this has not been made clear by any of the historians mentioned in this paper, from the moment of their arrival at Mrauk-U, despite an initially friendly reception,Shuja’ and his party were virtually under surveillance. No foreigner could visit them and the place of their residence was between a precipice and a river in a highly inaccessible position.
- Schouten, 1, 231.
- Benuer, 109.
- Mamicci, 370, 347. The so-called “palace” was only a bamboo house and not even one of the same standard as used by the Arakanese aristocracy.
- Italics roine. Bowrey, op. cit., 141.
- Hamilton, Alexander, A New Account of the East Indies, Edinbwgb,1727,II, 77. Italics mine.
- Stewart, 278, 280.
- Alaol, Sekandar Nama (Handwritten Ms, no. 532 in the Dacca University Library Mss. Collection).
- Translation by courtesy of U Ko, Lecturer in Pali, University of Mandalay (1961): San Baw U uses the same oassaue in another version,op.cit.,II.One yojana is approximately 13 miles.
- San Shwe Bu 38.He uses possibly besides U Nga Me’s Maha Razawin, other Arakanese palm leaf histories which he possessed viz.. Do we Maharaiawin, Dimyawady Ayedawpon and Nga Lat Rozawin.
- Beroier, 110; Hanulton, II, 27.
- Dow, 228-9.
- Stewart, 278.
- Phayre, 178; The sum was said to be Rs.12,000.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations, dp. cil., 23.
- Hall, D. G. E., A History of South East Asia, London, 1955, 339. See also Phavre, 178-9.
- Schouten, 1, 234-237
- Schouten, i, 231.
- San Shwe Bu, 38.
- Vide supra,
- San Baw U, 19. Do we Maharazowin, Dinnyawaddy Ayedawpon, and the Nga Lot Razawin were all used by San Shwe Bu.
- U Nga Me’s Maha Rozawin quoted by San Baw U,op.cit. 15. It is, of singular interest to note that this work of history “was recorded…as approved by Sanda Thnriharnrna” • also, Beraier 110
- Italics mine.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, 24 ; Manucci, 374 ;Dow, 328.
- Vide Supra,
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations…., 24.
- Schouten, I, 231-254.
The tragedy of Mrauk-U (1660-1661) ( II )
6. Sanda Thudhamma’s Passion
After the subsidence of the threat from the Mughal subahdsr of, Bengal, and the suppression of the Mughal soldiers, Sanda Thudhamma found time ori his hands to indulge in his amorous propensities which, ultimately, were to seal the fates of Sultan Shuja’,his family, his immediate followers and a body of Arakanese Muslims many of them innocent bystanders.
Some days after the arrival of Prince Shah Shuja in the kingdom of Arakan, where he had been conducted with much honour, in conformity with the customs of those kings, to a palace 2 outside the city, he was invited by the king to sit with him. But the prince, although a fugitive and in necessity, would not forsake his dignity, holding himself to be a much greater man than the king of Arakan. The latter could not compare in dignity, refinement, or pleasant habits with even a simple captain among the Moguls. Not liking to go and sit with him. Shah Shuja sent his son. Sultan Bang with the excuse that he himself was unwell.The Magh was delighted at the coming of Sultan Bang, expecting that he would offer him many jewels, stones of price, and costly pieces of cloth.
Then followed the basin of raw buffalo blood at the festive table about which mention has been made before Even though Banque “was much revolted and held his nostril” the “King appears not to have been annoyed at this breach of etiquette.3
What precipitated the crisis in which the blue blood of the Mughal royalty was lavished on the arid rocks of Mrauk-U, was the Arakanese King’s mad and tempestuous passion for one of the Mughal princesses whom he wanted to wed and carry off into his seraglio.
Sanda Thudhamma’s motivation in suddenly asking for the hand of a Muslim princess of the imperial Mughal family the members of which were strong believers in the tenets of the Muslim faith has been interpreted as political by certain writers, Hamilton suggests that Sanda Thudhimrna was deliberately out to provoke a quarrel with Shuja’. Says Hamilton in this regard:
The threatening letter (from Mir Jumla) wrought so far on the base Arackaner, that he contrived ways and means to pick a quarrel with his guest, to have a pretext to oblige Emirjemal. At last he found a very fair one.
Sultan Shujah having a very beautiful daughter, the King of Arackan desired her in marriage but knew very well that Sultan Shujah would never consent to the match he being a Pagan and she a Mahomedan. The father used all reasonable arguments to diswade the Arackaner from prosecuting his suit, but in vain, for the Arackaner grew daily more pressing, and Sultan Shuja at last gave him a final denial on which the base King sent him orders to go out of his dominion in three days and forbad the markets to furnish him any more with provision for his money.4
Dow, Stewart, and after them, Spearman and Phayre support this theory.
The two on-the-spot observers,Gerrit van Voorburg and Wouter Schouten are, surprisingly, quite silent about the proposal for marriage.They fail to ascribe any cause of the quarrel between Shuja’ and the King, and describe in much details the actual course of the brief, if sharp, clash. Bernier, and Manucci, however, go into some details over this although they do not offer any extraneous reason for the marriage proposal other than Sanda Thudhamma’s infatuation. Says the former:
“…the King, five or sn days after this interview (with Sultsn Banque), made a formal demand of one of his daughters in marriage. Sultan Shujah’s refusal to accede to this request exasperated him to such a degree that the Prince’s situation became quite desperate.”5
Manucci’s account differs on one cardinal point, viz., that the Arakanese King wanted one of the princesses as a wife for his son (and not for himself). In. Manucci’s words:
The temerity of the King arrived at such a pitch that he asked for a daughter of Shah Shuja as wife for his own son.The Prince Shah Shuja awaited nothing but the monsoon season to make a start for Persia or Mecca. Its arrival was delayed, and he began to be irritated at the coarseness of the Arakan king,, and his overwhelming conceit in asking for his [ Shah Shuja's ] daughter as wife to his son.6
The Arakanese works, as expected, narrate a glamorously slanted concoction of events rationalizing the “marriage” and its aftermath. Says San Shwe Bu:
“Meanwhile, to seal friendly relations between them, Shujah [on his arrival at Mrauk-U] gave his eldest daughter [whom San Shwe Bu called Chand Bibi] in marriage to the king who celebrated the event in song and verse which, at the present day, are among the most beautiful compositions to be found in the whole range of Arakanese literature.” 7
Maha Razawin, the traditional chronicle of Arakan, as reported, differs on this point. It runs:
“Aspiring for Buddhahood Sanda Thudhamma honoured Thet Thuza’s [Shah Shuja’s] daughters with his special affection granting them exalted positions in his harem, servants and maids to wait upon, food in abundance, and an immense wealth of precious metal.Thet Thuza’s daughters thereby enjoyed the generous affection of the great king, powerful, righteous, and compassionate towards both the laity and the clergy.Theirs was the enviable pleasure of waiting uponsuch a glorious sovereign.” 8
At another place the chronicle goes on to say that “Soon after his arrival in Arakan…Shah Shuja presented his sister (Sabe Bee) to, the King to keep her in the palace as one of the ladies-in-waiting….” 9 In passing, San Baw U refers to the romantic version of this particular episode written respectively by Rabindranath Tagore 10 and adapted and used by George Calderon, the dramatist, in his The Maharani of Arakan. Both these authors in their romances specifically refer to unfortunate heroine as Peari Banu, “the beautiful Mophul princess.”
Jadu Nath Sarkar, scrupulous historian that he was, not finding any reliable information such as records of the contemporary Dutch factors at Mrauk-U and elsewhere, makes no mention of Sanda Thudhamma’s marriage to the Mugal Shahzad; but modern historians of Burma, like Harvey and Hall, weighing all available evidence which is considerable in corpus and reliable to a degree, accept the marriage, forced or otherwise, as something that did happen. 11
The identity of the princess whom the king wanted to wed is not too clearly established. The eldest daughter Peari (or Peara ) Banu is most commonly mentioned as the princess concerned although San Baw U says that it was the youngest who was named Peari Banu and who was the bride-elect. The position is more confused on account of Shuja’s second wife who had accompanied him in his exile, being called Peari Banu by Dow and accepted as such by Beale in his Oriental Biographical Dictionary.12
7. “Mogh”‘ Vs. Mughal
The violent conflict which erupted shortly afterwards, if brief and one-sided, was a sad climax to the dramatic events of Mrauk-U of 1660 and 1661. There are two schools of opinion about the roots of this bloody clash: one holds that Sanda Thudhamma either inspired or intimidated by Mir Jumla, or excited by greed and lust or dogged by suspicion and fear, looked for a pretext to provoke Shuja’ into taking up arms, thus providing the host with an excuse for finishing him off with his sons and followers and abducting his women into the walled palace of Mrauk-U, and annexing a huge quantity of loot like which Arakan had never seen before.13
The second school suggests that deprived of the succession to the imperial throne at Delhi and driven from the subah of Bengal by fear and physical danger, Shuja’ came soon to nourish political ambitions in Arakan, hoping to utilize for his purpose the sympathy of the Arakanese and Bengali Muslims settled at Mrauk-U and elsewhere in that kingdom.This last point of view is held by Arakanese historians and supported, if somewhat speciously, by at least one European writer.14
The truth appears to be midway between the two theories. It was undoubtedly the frustrations that Shuja’ faced, e.g., his failure to get a sea-going vessel to carry him to Makkah even afier a long wait of eight months, along with the growing consciousness of his increasingly difficult position and the threat to the physical safety and honour of himself and his family, which made him decide on gambling on a forlorn chance. Sanda Thudhamma from being a patron and benefactor had turned into a watchful hostile on the alert to pounce upon him on any pretext, inspired by the greed for gold or the lust for a beautiful woman. Sanda Thudhamma’s behaviour became insulting and insolently aggressive and it was obvious that a showdown was bound to come—and it came very soon.
The die was cast. To live; Shuja had to dare. Bowrey sums up the Mughal prince’s highly critical position very appositely as below:
“At which [the refusal of Sanda Thudhamma's suit] the King was sorely displeased and could not be pacified, but sought the total destruction of the Sultan and all that appertained to him…” 15
With the support of the Muslims settled in Arakan, and particularly those in and around Mrauk-U, Sultan Snuja’ dreamt of bringing off a coup by which the royal house of Mrauk-U would be exterminated and the throne would be his.
”Sultan Sujah’s refusal to accede to this request [marriage of one of his daughters to the Arakanese King] exasperated him [the King] to such a degree that the Prince’s situation became quite desperate. What then ought he to do? To remain inactive was only quietly to await destruction. The season for departure was passing away; it was therefore necessary to come to a decision of some kind. He meditated, at length, an enterprise which never was exceeded in extravagance, and which proves the hopelessness of the situation to which he was reduced.
… [But a little later Bernier himself agrees that] this bold attempt, which resembled more the enterprise of a desperado than that of a prudent man, had nevertheless a certain feasibility in it, as I was informed by several Mahomedans, Portuguese, and Hollanders, who were then on the spot.16
Manucci’s narrative corroborates:
He (Shuja’) was afraid of some act of violence or insolence. His force of armed men was very small, but he found many dwellers in Arakan, Moguls and Pnthans, who showed themselves well inclined towards him. He therefore planned an outbreak, intending to slay the king and take the kingdom, and then advance once more to test his fortune in Bengal having thus previously made sure of a refuge in case of failure.17
Stewart mentions that:
The Raja was highly offended at the haughtiness of this answer; and repeated his orders for Shuja immediately to quit his territory. The unfortunate prince was then convinced that the mind of the Raja was actuated by the combined passions of lust and avarice, and that certain death awaited him and his sons….18
Shah Shuja’ despite the gamble, had some hopes of success as has been hinted at by Bernier and others. Seventeenth century Arakan and particularly its capital Mrauk-U and the seaport towns harboured a considerable population of Muslims, both native Arakanese, and Indians among whom those from Bengal predominated.
Strong Muslim influence in lats seventeenth century Arakan has been remarked upon by a host of writers. Bernier mentions: “Although the King of Rakan be a Gentile, yet there are many Mahomedans mixed with the people, who have either chosen to retire among them, or have been enslaved by the Portuguese before mentioned, in their expeditions to the neighbouring coasts…”
Manucci also mentions, …he (Shah Shuja) found many dwellers in Arakan, Moguls and Pathans, who showed themselves well inclined towards him…” Even San Shwe Bu agrees that “there were numerous Mohamedans settled in the country.19
The real position and strength of Muslims in Arakan of those days have been assessed by Muhammad Enamul Huq and (the late) Abdul Karim in their work, and corroborated later by Mahbub-ul-Alam.20
The authors hold that Islam began to spread from the eastern bank of the Meghna up to Arakan since the 8th and 9th centuries A. C., long before the establishment of a Muslim Kingdom in this frontier region. Since then, this influence grew fast and was consolidated fully by the seventeenth century. The authors very tightly attribute the growth and development of Muslim influence from the days of King Min Saw Mun of Arakan (1404-34) who was restored to the throne in 1430 by the intervention of his patron, Sultan Jalal al-din Muhammad Shah of Gaur. The inscription of the Muslim kalima on Arakanese coins and the adoption of many Muslim customs and terms were other significant tributes to the influence of Islam. Mosques including the famous Sandikhan mosque began to dot the countryside and Islamic customs, manners and practices came to be established since this time. For about two hundred years the Muslim domination seemed to have been complete.
From the days of the restoration, there was an influx of Muslim officials, including ministers and courtiers, physicians (hakims or tabibs ), qadis, soldiers both of the cavalry and infantry, merchants, traders, labourers and workers who were soon absorbed in the general population. In addition there was a transient population of sailors of becalmed ‘Arab. Persian and Indian Muslims vessels who spent considerable periods of the year in the seaports of Arakan waiting for favourable winds.21
Haq and Karim base their claims on contemporary Bengali literature, which blossomed at Mrauk-U (Mrohaung) particularly puthis written in the 17th century by Bengali poets.
According to Huq and Karim, King Thiri Thudhamma-raza (1612-22) had as his War minister, or Lashkar Wazir, one Ashraf Khan of Chittagong. This statement is corroborated, partially, by Manrique, the Augustinian friar who visited Arakan in the days of this king and, later, yet more fully, by the Daghregister which mentions the “Lascar Zuzil” as the chief minister.
Haq and Karim also mention that in the days of King Narapatigyi (1638-45) who succeeded Thiri Thudhamma after a very short interval, the Lashkar Wazir was yet another Muslim whose son was a court official. The latter, called Magan Thakur became, in turn, the chief minister, of Narapatiey’s nephew, son-in-law and successor, Thado Mintar (1645-1652). Magan is said to have been succeeded by Sulaiman as chief minister. The authors mention a number of their Muslim officials, major or minor, at the court of Mrauk-U.22
Therefore Shuja’s plan was not entirely the last desperate throw of a gambler. Had the element of surprise in his plot taken the Arakanese aback, the course of Arakanese history might well have been changed.
Shah Shuja’s attempted rebellion has been noticed by various writers. Schouten is not quite clear when he records:
“Chasausa nevertheless from time to time saw some servants to find for him a way of escape ; and to make secret use of the homeward retreat of the people of the countryside in order that after being of service he would also serve without being recognized. In fact he disappeared, and the principal members of his suite disappeared with him. He carried with him what was most precious, and the court had not been alerted to his escape in time, so it was not discovered, until he bad safely disappeared…
This narrative, disjointed and obscure as it is, continues:
“The King of Aracan had sent broadcast orders to find the Prince of Bengal and bring him there, had redoubled the frontier guards, and strongly defended what remained fortified, (put under surveillance) also Maures of the Realm, (or) what appeared to be Maure, if he had no passport. All ehese precautions tended to prevent Chasausa’s invasion.
…The unfortunate Chasausa was discovered, taken and held prisoner in the village of Aracan, he was accused of infidelity and sentenced to death. His men delivered him as they found him, and those who delivered him were no less traitors than their master.23 Some mingled among the peasants of the country-side as if they were natives themselves and they saved themselves in this way. The silvers and gems fell into the King’s hands”…24
The Dutch surgeon’s account, suggests that Shuja’ tried to escape from Mrauk-U, and indeed the Kingdom of Arakan, in fear of his and his family’s lives, honour and property.
Gerrit van Voorburg’s letter preserved in the Daghregister as summarized by Hall says that “the massacre of Shuja’s retinue took place on 7 February 1661″ and was carried out because the prince “intended to escape from the King’s palaces and conquer the kingdom, of Arakan for himself.” 25
Hall goes on to explain why despite their presence at Mrauk-U at the very time of the massacre of the Mughals both Gerrit van Voorburg and Schouten appear to be totally ignorant of the proceedings. For their violent counter-action to Shuja’s intended revolt, (several historians hold that it was simply action and not counter-action!) the Arakanese had taken prior precautions of having all ships including “a Dutch vessel, and some belonging to Indian Mahomedans … moved away from the wharf. All the roads were patrolled by troops and the rivers by galiasses…” Naturally, the Dutch observers were totally in the dark until after the killings, when news began to seep in gradually.
The news was gruesome and shocking. Hall continues:
“His [van Voorburg’s] first report was that when Shah Shuja found his house attacked, he set fire to it and abandoned it by night with his three sons, his harem and about 300 followers. The Arakanese general had pursued them and captured the eldest son, Bon Sulthan, and his youngest son. These were brought before the king on February 15 and imprisoned. But Shah Shuja himself and his second son Saan [Chand] Sultan had escaped to Tippera. Later he heard that Shah Shuja had not escaped” 26
The fate of Shsh Shuja’ remained a mystery even after some months when the Daghregister states:
The prince Cbasousa, of whom in the- previous Arakan advices of 22 February last it was said that he was a fugitive, and had not been found either alive or dead, is believed however, though there is no certainty therein, to have perished in the first fury, but his body was made unrecognisable by the grandees in order the better to be able to deck their persons with the costly jewels, which he wore. His three sons together with his wives and daughters have been taken; the wives and daughters have been brought into the King’s palace, and the sons after being imprisoned for some time have been released and permitted to live in a iittle house. Every day the gold and silver, which the Arakanese have taken, are brought into the King’s treasury to be melted down.”27
Bernier, who holds that Shah Shuja’ in desperation organized a revolt and who had the benefit of three or four first hand if “totally different accounts of the fate of that prince…”gives ample details:
Although the King of Rakan be a Gentile, yet there are many Mahometans mixed with the people, who have either chosen to retire among them, or have been enslaved by the Portuguese before mentioned, in their expeditions to the neighbouring coasts. Sultan Sujah secretly gained over Mahometans, whom he joined with two or three hundred of his own people, the remnant of those who followed him from Bengale ; and with this force resolved to surprise the house of the King, put his family to the sword, and make himself sovereign of the country. This bold attempt which resembled more the enterprise of a desperado than that of a prudent man, had nevertheless a certain feasibility in it as I was informed by several Mahometans, Portuguese and Hollanders, who were then on the spot. But the day before the blow was to be struck, a discovery was made of the design, which altogether ruined the affairs of Sultan Sujah, and involved in it the destruction of his family.
The Prince endeavoured to escape into Pegu; a purpose scarcely possible to be effected by reason of the vast mountains and forests that lay in the route , for there is not now, as formerly a regular road in that direction. He was pursued and overtaken, within twenty-four hours after his flight; he defended himself with an obstinacy of courage much as might have been expected and the number of barbarians that fell under his sword was incredible; but at length, overpowered by the increasing host of assailants, he was compelled to give up the unequal combat. Sultan Banque, who had not advanced so far as his father, fought also like a lion, until covered with the blood of the wounds he received from the stones that had been showered on him from all sides, he was seized, and carried away, with his two young brothers, his sisters, and his mother.
“No other particulars, on which dependence may be placed, are known of Sultan Sujah. It is said that be reached the hills, accompanied by an eunuch, a woman, and two other persons; that he received a wound on the bead from a stone, which brought him to the ground; that the eunuch having bound up the Prince’s bead with his own turban, he rose again, and escaped into the woods.28
Manucci corroborates, and especially in profuse detail, the slaughter of the Mughal Prince and his family. He says:
He confided this design to some of his people, by whom it was approved. But they were not able to carry out the project with the called-for secrecy, and through the delay they made there was time for the King of Arakan to hear of the plot. He planned the assassination of Shah Shujah and all his adherents, and to this intent called to him his four principal captains, each of whom had three thousand armed men… To these he issued orders that one morning of daybieak they should all with one accord shout “Long live the King of Arakan! Death to Shah Shujah and all traitors !” Under cover of these, they were to kill everyone. The captains carried out the order of their king, killing everybody they encountered. Upon this news reaching the unfortunate prince Shah Shujah, he tried to save his life by getting on his elephant, hoping that he might thereby impose some respect for his person.
But it was grievous to see the fury with which the Maghs came on, throwing everything into disorder, with blows and shouts and cries, some saying “Death to the Prince Shah Shujah!” others, “Death to his son. Prince Bang ‘” others “Slay those traitorous Moguls who fied here from Bengal !” Prince Bang was taken prisoner, while Shah Shujah with a few men fied to the jungle. He made liberal use of the bags of jewels and pearls, which he scattered among these savages, attempting by the use of these valuables to mitigate the rage of the soldiers and gain a free passage for his flisht. But the Maghs paid no heed to his proffered wealth ; thev pursued the poor prince like famishing wolves, cutting his bodv into pieces, stripping it bare and plundering all his valuables… Prince Bang remained for some time a prisoner, but afterward he regained his liberty.29
As had already been stated before Bowrey believed that there was no plot fostered by Shuja’ but that the suspicious nature of Sanda Thudhamma led him to set his minions to put his own place on fire and give out that the act was Shuja’s so that the city guards and natives soldiery went on a rampage for the blood (and treasures) of Shuja’ and his helpless family and followers. His conclusion is: ”The Sultan fled toward the mountain and his small trains with him, but were so severely pursued that the woody mountain became their sepulchres.” 30
This escape into the mountain theory is also subscribed to by Hamilton who writes:
Sultan Sujah knowing it would be death for him to go back to Bengal, resolved to pass over some mountains overgrown with woods, into the King of Pegu’s dominions, which were not above 100 miles off, and so next day after summons, with his family, treasure, and attendants. Sultan Sujah began his march, but the barbarous Arackaner sent a strong party after him, who overtook him before he had advanced far into the woods, and killed most of Sultan Sujah’s company, and brought it back in an inglorious triumph. What became of Sultan Sujah and his fair daughter, none could ever give a certain account; whether they were killed in the skirmish or whether they were destroyed by wild elephants and tigers in the woods, none ever knew, but the Arakanese allege they were destroyed by the wild beasts of the woods, and not by the more savage beasts in human shape. So much treasure never had been seen in Arackan before.31
In addition to Bowrey, Dow, Stewart and their followers, Spearman and Phayre, do not put any credence on the story of Shuja’s attempted rebellion. They hold, albeit in more or less varying degrees, that the Arakanese King antagonized by Shuja’s haughty refusal of his suit for the hand of one of the princesses, foisted a concocted charge of rebellion on Snuja’ and used this pretext to finish off the Prince and his family. The matter was complicated by the general wave of sympathy for the distressed Mughal, not only among Muslims of all races, but the general populace as well.
Therefore to assassinate him in private was impossible from the vigilance of his party of forty friends (body-guard). A public pretence must be made to gain the wealth of Shuja and to appease his enemies by his death the report of conspiracy against the Raja was industriously spread abroad. It was affirmed that Shuja had formed a design to mount the throne of Arracan, by assassinating its monarch…
Dow opines, in continuation:
The thing was itself improbable. How could a foreigner, with forty adherents hope to rule a people of a different religion with themselves…
The Raja in a pretended terror, called suddenly together his council. He unfolded to them the circumstances of the conspiracy, and he asked their advice. They were unanimously of the opinion that Shuja and his followers should be immediately sent away from the country…The Raja was disappointed in his expectations; … he, however …resolved to execute his own designs…32
According to this account, SLhuja’ chose to fight it out to the bitter end, taking advantage of the strategic site where his house was situated, at the foot of Bahbudaung Hill on a narrow piain which lay between a precipice and a river [Inda or Einza or the modern Lemro] which issuing from Arakan, falls into the country of Pegu…At either end of the plain a pass was formed between the rock and the river. Shuja’ with twenty of his men, possessed himself of one; and his son with rest, stood in the other in arms.”33
Needless to say that the small band of refugees fighting a desperate fight for their lives and honour were soon overwhelmed. According to Dow’s narrative, Shah Shuja’ himself with two friends was taken in a canoe which was sunk in midstream leaving them to drown in a watery but not bloody death for, according to Burmese practice, royal blood was not to be shed. His wife and daughters were forcibly rescued, led from the river into which they had jumped in attempts to escape the Arakanese and led into the royal harem.
8. Shah Shuja’s Family
Piara Banu, Shuja’s wife, when approached by Sanda Thudhamma in his seraglio, is supposed to have killed herself with a dagger while her two elder daughters took poison and died. The youngest, Amena Banu, was forcibly taken as wife by the King but languished in captivity and died. Of the sons, one of the elder, probably Bang (or Buland Akbtar) who is said to have been only 16 years of age (and who bad defended one end of the pass until he was wounded and captured ) was killed by the Maghs at the behest of .their King. Thus on foreign soil ended the family of Shuja’ at the hands of his erstwhile hosts and protectors.34
Stewart’s version, is almost identical except for a statement that when the Council refused to play his game by ordering the extermination of the Mughals, Sanda Thudhamma ordered his troops “to remove the Moghuls from their present residence and compel them to take the route of Chittagong; but if, in so doing, the life of one of his subjects should be lost the officer, commanding, was at liberty to satiate the revenge.”35 The implication was only too obvious.
Harvey, both in his “The Fate of Shah Shuja” and Hisiory of Burma, holds that Shuja’ did plan to attempt a coup with the help of his own two hundred followers and the local Muslims but due to leakage of the plot, he and his men were overpowered: afier some of them, in desperation, had put the royal city of Mrauk-U to fire, Shuja’ himself fled into the interior but was haunted out and killed. “His daughters were taken into the harem, the marriage of the eldest (Pari Banu according to Harvey) being celebrated in song and verse which are still greatly admired.36
San Shwe Bu, who claims to report the account common to Arakanese historians, dismisses the episode in the following words with not a word of regret or sympathy for the unfortunate Shah Shuja’. He tries to rationalize “the so-called cruel conduct” (italics mine) of the Arakanese King. Afier describing Shuja’ as being without the philosophic calm which had stood his elder brother Dara in good stead even in the days of his dire adversity, he says:
…In a short time he conceived the idea of deposing the king his benefactor and ascending the throne of Arakan. There were numerous Mabomedans settled in the country.He practically won over all these to his cause. Preparations for a general rebellion were pushed on with feverish haste. But alas! in February 1661, the plot leaked out and Shujah and his party sought safety in flight to the hills of Northern Arakan.
King Sanda-Tbudharnma-raza was more or less stunned when be heard of this colossal act of perfidy and ingratitude. The fugitives were speedily followed and were brought before the royal presence. For a time the King looked sad; but a revulsion of feeling having set in, he forthwith commanded that Shujah, his sons and, the principal officers of his reiinue should be put to death. This was carried out with the approval of his ministers who urged that if the culprits were allowed to live there would be no peace in the country. Shujah’s wife and two remaining daughters were spared and were permitted to reside with the princess he had married. The rest of the followers of the ungrateful Shujah were spared their lives for it was contended that they, as servants, merely obeyed the orders of their Master.37
However, San Baw U, another Arakanese historian, records a different view of Shah Shuja’s character, the view of U Nga Me’s Maha Razawin, the royally approved chronicle of Arakan. It describes the Mughal prince thus: “The Sultan Shuja, whose handsomeness, majestic bearing and striking personality that never failed to touch the heart of every person who behold him excelling even those of the Thagyamin, the King of Heaven, whose abode was Tawateimsa…38
San Baw U reproduces later the description of Shah Shuja’s revolt as below:
In the month of Tabodwe 1023 B.E.,[February 1662, A.D.] 39 Shah Shuja with the object of seizing the throne of Arakan rebelled against Sanda-Thudama. Being defeated he escaped to the source of Gachapa nadi (Kalladan river) leaving his Family and followers to their fate. The elder son (Muhammad Bank) was wounded, and some of the followers were killed by the infuriated troops of King Sanda-Thudama. When the King knew that the rebellion had failed, he at ones issued strict orders that those who remained alive should be spared.40
Jadu Nath Sarkar accepts Manucci’s version and says that “European traders who had free access to Aracan were likely to be best informed, and I believe that the truth lies in what may have been recorded of Shuja’s fate.”41
The story of Shuja’s escaping the fury of the Maghs and fleeing into the hills of Tippera or the jungles of Burma has been recorded by several chroniclers.Some of these suggest that the Mughal Prince escaped to the source of the Gachapa Nadi (Kaladan river) and thence to the Naaf side.
One reference,somewhat difficult to accept is cited by Orme whose source is Dalrymple’s Oriental Repertory. He mentions the existence of a tomb in the distant island of Sulu located thousands of miles away from Mrauk-U which was pointed out to him as Shah Shujs’s tomb. Despite the visual “proof” offered, it is difficult to agree that Shuja’ alone, or even with a small remnant of royal followers, crossed the Arakan Yornas into Burma and went down all the length of that country into Siam and ultimately reached. Sulu across the waters. San Baw U thinks that while the overland trek was highly improbable, for Shujs’ “to reach that island by sea-route in a sailing ship was a much easier method and was not impossible even in those times.” 42
However, weighing all the available evidence, there can remain no doubt whatsoever about his bloody end and even Alaol, the Bengali poet at Mrauk-U, breaks his discreet near-silence and refers briefly to Shah Shuja’ and his fate. In the introduction io his xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Saiful Mulk Badiujjamal} written in 1669, he says:
Again in the introduction to his CT^l^H ‘•^’l (Sikandar Nama) written in 1673, he says :
The story of Shuja’ would remain incomplete without references to the fate of his sons and daughters who survived the first onslaught of the Magh fury. The princes were kept under house surveillance in small huts, and the princesses eked out their tortured spans of life within the triple palace walls of Mrauk-U until their final release from all agonies.
After Sbuja’s cruel end, the Mughal government of Bengal tried to rescue the survivors of his family from the clutches of Sanda Thudhamma and with the reluctant assistance of the Dutch, sent Mirzs Ali Beg to Mrauk-U on this mission. From 29th September 1661 the negotiations began and went on until the beginning of 1664 when the King of Arakan completed his tally by wiping out the surviving Mughal princesses at one fell sweep.The infuriated King followed this up by organizing a great raid on Bengal which ultimately culminated in shattering retaliation by the new Subahdar of Bengal, “Sjha Estachan” (Shayista Khan), in 1665.45
The earliest news of the massacre of the halpless members of the Mughal royalty at Mrauk-U seeped out from the Dutch factory at Hugli to their headquarter at Batavia. It is recorded in the Doghregister that: “the sons of Shah Shuja and every one found wearing a beard in the Moorish fashion had been beheaded as a result on an attempt by the princes to set fire to the royal palace at Mrohaung in order to escape in the confusion.”
This report was confirmed in greater detail by Gerrit van Voorburg’s successor at Mrauk-U, Daniel Six. In his letter to Batavia he says:
On 25 July last, the royal palace had been fired by ten or twelve desperate “Mogolders” and burnt to the ground. Shah Shuja’s three sons were suspected of having been the cause of it and bad been at once beheaded; and many Moors and Bengalis bad been plundered and murdered. Further ambassadors bad been sent (to Mrauk-U) but the king bad gone so far as to clap one of them in gaol. War was imminent…46
Bernier’s version of the second Muslim revolt is:
But whatever doubts may be entertained of the fate of Sultan Sujah, there are none as to the catastrophe which befell his family. “When brought back, men, women, and children were all thrown into prison, and treated with the utmost harshness. Some time after, however, they were set at liberty, and used more kindly; the King then married the eldest princess, and the Queen-mother evinced a strong desire to be united to Sultan Banque.47
While these events were happening, some servants of Sultan Banque joined the Mahometans, of whom I have spoken, in a plot similar to the last- The indiscreet zeal of one of the conspirators, who was probably heated with wine, led to the discovery of the design on the day on which it was to be executed. In regard to this affair, too, I have heard a thousand different tales; and the only fact I can relate with confidence is that the King felt so exasperated against the family of Sujah as to give orders for its total extermination. Even the Princess whom he had himself spoused, and who, it is said, was advanced in pregnancy, was sacrificed according to his brutal mandate.Sultan Banque and his brothers were decapitated with gruesome-looking axes, quite blunt, and the female members of this ill-fated family were closely confined in their apartments, and left to die of hunger.48
Manucci is somewhat compressed but records:
Prince Bang was taken prisoner, while Shah Shujah with a few men fled to the jungle. He made liberal use of his bags of jewels and pearls, which he scattered among these savages, attempting by the use of these valuables to mitigate the rage of the soldiers and gain a free passage for his fight. But the Maghs paid no heed to proffered wealth; they pursued the poor prince like famishing wolves, cutting his body into pieces, stripping it bare, and plundering all his valuables…Prince Bang remained for some time a prisoner, but afterward he regained his liberty.Owing, however, to his attempting once more some treachery, the Magh ordered his head to be cut off with a hatchet. The women and daughters of Shah Shujah were carried off the palace of the king. But owing to the distrust aroused there among the other women of the king, he was obliged to expel them, and they moved as castaways from house to house until their miserable lives came to an end.49
Neither Dow nor Stewart mentions this second Muslim revolt. Spearman alludes to Shuja’s two surviving sons who “were subsequently drowned,” and Phayre just mentions that “the remaining daughter (Amena Banu) was brought into the palace, where from grief she died”. Mahbubul Alam, in passing, says: “Many of Shuja’s followers died at the hands of the palace guard. Now, Amena Banu was also killed on the charge of conspiring with the rest of them (the followers).”50
San Shwe Bu gives details of the “revolt” and the dire punishment that was visited upon Shuja’s surviving children, his followers and Muslims in general. His account runs:
For the space of about two years after these events, the affairs in Arakan pursued their tranquil course. But, in the year 1663 A.D., the followers of Shujah became restive once again either from greed of gain or to avenge the supposed wrongs of their defunct master they one night set fire to the palace. In the general confusion Manawthiri, the Governor of Mrauk-U, was burnt to death and the king and his family barely escaped with their lives.Their crowning act of treachery very rightly destroyed the remaining faith the king had in all those connected with the Indian prince. In his righteous indignation he first caused the arrest and execution of his Mughal archers. Then he ordered the death of Shuja’s wife and daughters, not even excepting his own wife who was then in an advanced stage af pregnancy, the reason for this cruel command being based on the fact that it was considered neither fair nor expendienfc that such ungrateful people should be allowed to dwell in the society of loyal and honest subjects of the realm.51
It has been confirmed by most accounts that Amena Banu, at the time of her assassination, was pregnant; her killing was probably the crowning inequity of Sanda Thudhamma among all his other misdeeds.
And yet the Arakanese historian proudly concludes with the laudatory dictum that “King Sanda-Thudamma-Raza was one of the most enlightened of Arakanese Kings of the Mrauk-U dynasty!”
Alaol confirms the report of the second revolt in his writings referring to the wholesale killings and imprisonments of the Muslims of Mrauk-U. In the reign of terror which followed the abortive rising, Alaol himself, an innocent citizen of Mrauk-U, was incarcerated in prison for a period of fifty days on the basis of the reports of tell-tales and was only released by strong intercession on his behalf.52
The Mugnal Court appears to have received the confirmed news of the death of Prince Shuja’ and his family belatedly through devious routes mainly from Dutch and European traders in Bengal. One of these sources was, however, the Waqa’i (daily news reports) of the city of Hyderabad in the Deccan.
The report for Saturday, 1st Muharram 1072 A.H (17th August 1661 A.D.) records:
“When the news was received that the ship of Khan-i-Khanan, Sipah-Salar, (Mir Jumla) sailing from Rakhang Arakan], called at Ishsq Patam the news reporter sought a written confirmation from the Ship’s captain of Prince Shuja’s murder.”
The report for Friday, 14t Muharram, 1072 A.H (30th August 1661 A.D) confirms the news. It ran:
“From Masulipatam, a letter was received from Mir Qssim of Khassa-i-Sharifa, reporting the arrival of the vessel Cholia, previously under the command of Khan Khanan, from the port of Rakhang.This letter also brought the news of the assassination of prince Shuja, arrest of his sons and daughters by the Raja of Arakan and slaying of the sisters by their brothers to have their good name. These tragic happenings were already reported to the Emperor by Makhshiu’l Mamalik Amin Khan.”53
Since no one could definitely affirm Shuja’s death, as his corpse was never recovered, the mystery around his fate has led to a brood of rumours and, what was less innocuous, a number of pretenders.
Says Orme in this regard:
According to the prevalent report of the time, he was murdered with his family and followers by a Rajah, on the confines of Arracan: but as his head had never been produced, nor the fact vouched by any persons who knew him before bis flight, some credit was given lo other reports, that he had escaped; which is believed, as we are informed, in the island of Sooloo, far from Arracan and Bengal where his tomb is shown at this day (1805).
A number of pretenders, made their appearances. One of these was a Pathan soldier who had served in Shuja’s army and resembled him closely “in countenance and figure.” He collected a band of Pathan malcontents, marched towards Delhi and probably went on to the Yusufzai country in 1674.
Orme also mentions that Shivaji in order to pique Aurangzeb appears to have mentioned during his sacking of Surat in 1664 “that he had Sultan Shujah in his camp, who is rightful emperor and had given him the town.” Another report said Shuja’ had escaped into Persia and still another that he led a rising near Murang (Purneah) in 1669; thirty years later a pretender claiming to be Prince Buland Akhtar was arrested near Allahbad.
Bernier mentions rumours of Shujs’s being at Golkonda and Masulipatam, and passing by Surat in ships presented by either the King of Pegu or Siam. But there appears to have been no substance in any of these various tales. 54
Now that the story of Shah Shuja’s tragic end has been told, it remains only to point out some remaining doubts and conflicts.
One main conflict in opinion is about the route taken by the unhappy Mug^al prince in his tlight to Arakan, liberty and death. It has been mentioned above, that some of the most reliable sources hold that Shah Snuja and his parry left by ship from Dacca ( or from the “port” on the Meghna) for Dianga or Chittagong, and that thence the party travelled by land to Mrauk-U. Of course, one or two variants are suggested, e.g., travel by ship all the way from Dacca to Mrauk-U.
However, a sizeable body of opinion holds that the route taken, was mainly overland through the hills and jungles of Tippera and Chittagong to the “Golden City of Mrauk-U.” Fray Sebastien Manrique who, in 1629-30, travelled from Hughli via Dianga to Paragri in Arakan, on stop before Mrauk-U, is recorded to have taken 14 days to reach Dianga from. Hughli by sea and another 22 days from Dianga to Paragri by land.
In other words, the period of 113 days taken by Shuja viz. from 6th May to 26th August 1660 to reach Mrauk-U is more than three times the period taken by Manrique’s party. However, it must be remembered that Shuja’ led a big slow moving party consisting of many women and children and a considerable quantity of baggage.
The historical accounts also name varyingly the objects of Sanda Thudhamma’s passion. With Shakespeare, we would say “What’s in a name?” The facts remain that he was guilty of taking advantage of the helplessness of royal refugees who had thrown themselves at his mercy and that he did not stop short of force in taking one of the Mughal princesses to wife and then disposing of her in a heartless manner. In this context, the Arakanese versions that Shuja’ on his arrival at the royal city of Arakan gladly offered his daughter and his sister (or both) seem to have been based on remarkable feats of imagination.
As for the end of Shuja’ himself, while no conclusive decision can be arrived at on the basis of the information now available, the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that he perished. Speculative theories about his escape into Tipperah or Burma and thencs to Sulu Island or Surat, Persia or Yusufzai country ail appear to be unfounded.
- Bernier, 110.
- This was only a house of bamboo.
- Manucci, I, 374.
- Hamilton, IT, 27. Sie also Dow, 329; Stewart, 278-9.
- Bernier, 110-11.
- Manucci, I. 369-371.
- San Shwe Bu. 38.
- Wa/io Ra^awin, U Ko’3 translation of extract from U Nga Me’s work.
- San Baw U, 19.
- ^t^f? “, There are some songs and ballads about the lament of Pari Banu in Arakanese and the lament of Amena Banu in Chitiagong.
- Harvey, History of Burma, 138; Hall, A History of South-East Asia, 339.
- Dow 331; Beale, Thomas WIliam, The Oriental Biographical Dictionary Calcutta, 1881, 217.
- IBowrey, 141.
- Bernier, 110-11.
- Manucci, I, 374.
- Siewart, 279.
- Bernier,111;Manucci,374; San Shwe Bu, 38 ; see also Manrique,Fray Sebastien, Travels of Fray Sebaslien Manrique, 1620-43, tr. And ed. by Lt. Col. C. Ecktbrd Luard, Oxford, Hakluyt Society, 1926 reprint.
- ^it?^^ <?T^ TSt^ ^W^} ^iTf?7;”;, (^£”75 ‘ifcOO-‘^OO ^p) Bengali Literature in the Court of Arakan, 1600-1700 a.d. Calcuta,1935. 4-12; Mahbub-ul-Aiam.
- Ibid: 4-9 ; Maarique, I, 373 ; Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations, I, 9.
- Huq and Karim, 7-12
- This suggests treachery on the part of some of Shuja’s followers.
- Schouten, I, 234, 236-237.
- Hail, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, 24.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, 24.
- Ibid , 23
- Bernie 111-32. To a larger extent the accoun; ie the Daghregisier and lhat of Schouien approximate.
- Manucci, 374-375.
- Bowrey, 141-142.
- Hamilton. 11, 27.
- Dow, 329.
- Dow, 329-30.
- Italics mine.
- Siewan. 280-282,
- Harvev. History of Burma. 147; The Fate of Shah Shuja. JBRS, 1922.
- San Shwe Bu, 38-39.
- Op. cit., 15 ; Dow and Stswart give very favourable readings of Shuja’s character but I have chosen to reproduce that of the Arakanese chronicle itself.
- There seems to be a discrepancy of one year in San Baw U’s chronology. However, the dates given in the Daghrsgisier are detinue.
- San Baw U, 19. Sanda Thudhamma’s order to spare the surviving Mughals was not altogether altruistic for, in times to come they made very good archers for the Arakanese army and were famous as the Kamans.
- Sarkar; J. N., History of Aurangzeb, Calcutta, 1925, I & II, 611, 617.
- Orme refers to Dalrymple’s Oriental Repertory, London, 1793, 49-50 of his Fragment of the Mughal Empire; San Baw U, 17. Sulu is an island lying between Borneo and the Philippines at 5° lat. and 120° e; long.
- Alaol, Saiful Muluk Bodi-uj-jamal(Dacca University Mss.Collection,Puthi No. 510). The Bengali spelling in this extract, and the one following strictly follows that in the Ms.
- Alaol. Sekandar Nama (Dacca University Mss. Collection, Puthi No. 532).
- For details of this chapter of history see Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, III, 24-26.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations, III, 26-26.
- Italics mine. No other account mentiom this intriguing point.
- Bemier, 114-115.
- Manucci, 375-376.
- Spearman, I, 293 ; Phayre, 179 ; Mahbubui Alam, 158.
- San Sbwe Bu, 3.S.
- Enamul Haque and Abdnl Karim, 48.
- Yusuf Husain, Selected Waqai’ of the Deccan (1660-1671 A-&.) Hyderabad.
- Bernier, 113-114; Orme, 49, 50, 219; Sarkar, J. N., 61&-11.